Saturday, March 25, 2006

04: “More Agent Orange News”



A recent news article from Australia confirms the findings of a study done several years ago by the Australian Navy. Suspicious after being told by the U.S. not to make fresh water using their ship’s desalinization (evaporators) plants while operating inshore of Vietnam, the Australian Navy decided to find out why. The results have been floating around the Internet for several years, thanks in large part to the fine work done by Veteran’s Advocate Ms. Taura King out in California. We’ll let the article lay out for you what the study found, and what the Aussies are doing about it.

[Note: The Repatriation Medical Authority is an independent board that determines medical conditions’ causes and linkages to military situations for the Australian Department of Veteran Affairs.]

Navy Shipboard Vietnam cancers linked to water

WED 22 MAR 2006, Page 003
By: Simon Kearney

SAILORS who served on naval ships during the Vietnam War have been told their ships' drinking water, which was contaminated with Agent Orange, could be causing their cancers.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is investigating a link between the number of cancers among sailors and the desalinated water on board some ships, which contained dioxins from the deadly defoliant.

The alarm relates to ships that took on water in Vung Tau harbor in Vietnam between 1965 and 1972, specifically HMAS Sydney, which made 23 trips to Vietnam during the war, and her escort ships.

Between 1980 and 1994 as many as 170 navy personnel died from cancers potentially related to the water on the ships, according to the Mortality of Vietnam Veterans cohort study.

An updated mortality study on Vietnam veterans is due to be released later this
year.

The problem was identified nearly three years ago when the National Research Center for Toxicology found that desalinated drinking water taken from the estuary was contaminated with Agent Orange, which was sprayed widely across the country during the war.

“We are investigating what the issues associated with water and water taken from Vietnamese waters are, and the RMA (Repatriation Medical Authority) have made some progress in that in terms of providing some linkages,” Department of Veterans Affairs secretary Mark Sullivan said in a Senate budget estimates hearing last month.

He said drinking the water was linked to prostate cancer, bone marrow cancer, and two cancers of the lymphatic system, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and Hodgkin's lymphoma.

“It (RMA) is still considering the medical and scientific evidence for the inclusion of a potable water factor in the investigations for malignant neoplasm of the lung (lung cancer), soft tissue sarcoma, malignant neoplasm of the larynx (throat cancer) and acute myeloid leukemia,” Mr. Sullivan said.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is urging former navy personnel who have these conditions and served on ships that anchored in Vung Tau harbor to submit or resubmit claims.

“What we encourage all veterans to do, if they are unwell or have a condition or disease and they have any suspicion that that condition is related to their service, is to put in a claim.

We will investigate it,” Mr. Sullivan said.

However, Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia president Ron Coxon said the Government had not gone far enough because veterans had to prove they spent a total of 30 days drinking the water.

“They talk about 30 cumulative days but we don't know how much of the dioxin actually settled in the tank because they never cleaned them,” he said.

The initial toxicology report found that distilling seawater concentrated the dioxins in the water navy personnel were drinking and washing in to above safe levels. The report was an attempt to explain why more navy personnel were dying after the war than other veterans.

Of the 55,000 Australians who served in Vietnam, 12,376 were in the navy.

Opposition veteran’s affairs spokesman Allan Griffin said the Department of Veterans Affairs was not being active enough about warning veterans who might be at risk.

Simon Kearney
The Australian newspaper
2 Holt Street
Surry Hills
NSW 2010

E-mail:
kearneys@theaustralian.com.au

It appears the Aussies are almost as unwilling as the US Veterans Administration to accept that naval and maritime personnel operating off the coast of Vietnam were indeed subject to the dangers of dioxin from the widespread spraying of the defoliants in several areas of Southeast Asia. In particular, I Corps area in the northern part of Vietnam, just below the DMZ, and III corps area which was a large area surrounding Saigon, the Mekong River and its delta were subject to the highest concentrations of applied dioxins.

U.S. Navy vessels operated close inshore to support the ground troops ashore with naval artillery (Naval Gun Fire Support or NGFS), and in many cases operated within several hundred yards of the beach. During extended periods on the gun line, ship would have been forced to operate their fresh water evaporators to make fresh water from sea water.

The United States Veteran’s Administration unfairly excluded these “blue water sailors” from qualifying for Agent Orange benefits under the false premise that they were not exposed unless they “set foot on the ground” inside Vietnam.

Contact your Veteran’s Service Organization (American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, AMVETS, VVA, etc.) and have them get active in the press to right this extremely wrong and uncaring exclusion. Contact your Congressman and pressure them to get on board and move in Congress to correct the law.

This cannot be allowed to stand.

VNVets

“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.” -- President Abraham Lincoln

"Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious." --President George Washington

Copyright © 2006: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Monday, March 20, 2006

03: Veterans’ March on Washington


Here’s something you should be aware of, and perhaps become a part of, as it impacts all veterans. This was received from Tom Trefts at the Unified Veterans Coalition:

Legislators Attempt to Head-Off Veteran’s March on DC

WWW.FIREBASENETWORK.NET
By Staff Writer: Rick Townsend
firebaseadrian@tc3net.com
March 17, 2006

Lawmakers in our nation’s capitol are attempting to pacify this country’s veterans and supporters of an upcoming grassroots veterans’ affairs demonstration planned for Washington, DC next month.

On April 25th & 26th Operation Firing For Effect – The Veteran’s March will kick off a March and Rally in opposition to proposed future cuts in veteran’s services, and increases in retired military health care cost. The demonstration will be held on the U.S. Capitol steps and will address a wide variety of issues which affect the future of veterans’ affairs in this country. Thousands of veterans and their family members are expected to attend the Rally, which will begin at 8 am at the West Lawn of the Capitol building.

Over the past 90 days there has been a groundswell of Bills and Resolutions introduced addressing several veteran and retired military issues. From real legal representation for veterans filing claims with the VA, to efforts to block TriCare health coverage increases, our elected officials are scrambling to defuse growing anger and discontent within this country’s former military community.

The Military Retirees’ Healthcare Protection Act, H.R. 4949, if passed, would prevent
increases in TriCare enrollment fees and pharmacy co-pays. This single Bill would affect over 3 million military retirees and their families. H.R. 4914, if passed, would permit veterans to hire an attorney when they disagree with a benefits claims decision of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Currently, veterans are not allowed to hire an attorney until the end of the administrative appeals process, specifically, after the Board of Veterans Appeals has rendered a decision. In addition, there is a 72.4 billion VA supplemental funding bill in Congress. And yet another Bill would define veteran’s health care funding as a “Cost of War” to be addressed in the Department of Defense budget. In short, the word “veteran” has been mentioned more times in the past 3 months, than the past 3 decades.

Organizers of Operation Firing For Effect – The Veteran’s March are convinced their efforts to unite this country’s veterans has resulted in this recent flurry of activity and posturing on The Hill.

Vietnam combat veteran, Gene Simes is the Chairman of Operation Firing For Effect – The Veteran’s March. Simes said, “The introduction of these new Bills is not a coincidence. Our elected officials are very aware of our plans and they know we are coming”.

Event Co-Chairman, Gulf War One combat veteran, James North explained The Veteran’s March and Rally this way, “Our objectives are very simple and straight forward. First, we want to draw public awareness and media attention to serious problems facing our former military personnel and their families. Second, we want to send a message to our Congress and Senate demanding Veterans’ Affairs issues take precedence over special interest issues. Third, we want to send a message to our deployed troops that we support them and they can count on us to fight for the protection of their earned benefits and services. Forth, we want to improve the State of Veterans’ Affairs in this country in an effort to increase enlistment and improve retention in the U.S. military, thus preserve our all volunteer military. Fifth, we want to provide our former military personnel and their families a voice in matters that affect them,” North said.

Vietnam combat veteran and noted veteran’s rights advocate, Jere Beery is Public Relations Director for the Rally. “I really don’t think many Americans will be pacified or fooled by the recent and sudden pro-veteran activity on Capitol Hill. We have to influence the overall mindset of the entire Congress and Senate, and that will take a great deal more than a couple of showboat Bills,” Beery stated.

Jim North agrees with Beery. “The problems facing our veterans will only be solved when the American people demand our government provide and protect the benefits and services earned by our troops. If we can find billions of tax dollars for Mars exploration, surely we can find adequate funding for our veterans,” North said. “It’s a simply matter of priorities,” North added.

Gene Simes and James North are very confident of a good turn out in DC. “We are providing an opportunity for the American people to voice their concerns about the future of veteran’s affairs. Our April 25th Rally will be merely the beginning of a much bigger movement to insure veteran’s issues take precedence over all special interest issues. This is the message we are taking to Washington, DC,” Simes stated.

In a related story, yesterday the U.S. Senate voted down Stabenow Amendment 3141 requiring mandatory funding for veteran’s health care. (46 YEA votes, to 54 NAY) (Senate Roll Call Vote)


For more information on Operation Firing For Effect – The Veteran’s March visit;
WWW.VetMarch2006.COM

Tom Trefts
Unified Veterans Coalition
www.xsorbit27.com/users5/unifiedveteranscoalition/

Thanks Tom, my fellow vets who read this blog should take a large interest in this.

VNVets

“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”
-- President Abraham Lincoln


"Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."
--President George Washington

Copyright © 2006: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

02: News for Bluewater Vietnam Veterans!

Our good friend, EMO, Lt. James "EMO" Tichacek, USN (Ret) Director, Retiree Assistance Office, U.S. Embassy Warden & VITA Baguio City RP, sends a bi-monthly newsletter chock full of great information about Veterans and military benefits. This latest one, arriving yesterday, hits close to home. Apparently there is hope for the Blue Water Sailors of the Navy in Vietnam. Here's what EMO reports:
VA AGENT ORANGE CLAIMS UPDATE 01: The American Legion and the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) have been working closely together over the last 15 years to make sure that the VA pays all of the benefits that Vietnam veterans and their survivors deserve as a result of exposure to Agent Orange. Recently, there have been two important developments. This article provides advice about the steps you should take if you represent yourself, a veteran, or a survivor who may be affected:

1.) CLL Claims: Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is the latest disease the VA added to the list of diseases presumptively service connected due to Agent Orange. The VA issued the regulation adding CLL on 16 OCT 03. CLL is a malignancy (cancer) of the white blood that results from an acquired injury to the DNA of a single cell, a lymphocyte, in the bone marrow. This injury is not present at birth.

As a result of the Nehmer lawsuit [Nehmer v. U.S. Veterans Administration, 32 F. Supp. 2d 1175 (N.D. Cal. 1999)] the VA is normally required to pay benefits for an Agent Orange-related disease retroactive to the date the VA received the first claim the veteran or survivor filed based on the disease with the exception of claims that were finally denied before 25 SEP 85. VA took the position that when it was service connected CLL the Nehmer rules did not apply to CLL claims. As a result, the VA assigned an effective date no earlier than 16 OCT 03 whenever the VA granted a disability or DIC claim based on CLL even if the first CLL claim was filed before 16 OCT 03.

The Nehmer lawsuit is a class action brought by National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) on behalf of Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and their survivors. NVLSP appealed the VA's decision concerning CLL, and on 1 DEC 05, the federal court that oversees the Nehmer lawsuit agreed with NVLSP that the Nehmer rules do apply to CLL claims. The court's December 1st ruling requires the VA to pay disability and DIC benefits retroactive to the date of claim to all veterans or survivors who filed a CLL claim before 16 OCT 05. The VA recently appealed the December 1st decision to the court of appeals. If you know of a Vietnam veteran or survivor who filed a CLL claim before 16 OCT 03, you should contact NVLSP attorney Rick Spataro at (202) 265-8305, ext. # 149 or rick_spataro@nvlsp.org. NVLSP is currently trying to get the court to require the VA to pay the retroactive benefits owed under the December 1st order as soon as possible, even though the VA has appealed the decision. Rick is collecting a list of all CLL claimants who deserve an earlier effective date under the December 1st order to present to the court.

2.) Blue Water Disability/DIC claims: From 1991 to 2002, the VA took the position that Navy veterans who were awarded the Vietnam Service Medal as a result of service in the waters offshore Vietnam (blue water vets) were entitled to the same presumption of exposure to Agent Orange as veterans who set foot on land in Vietnam. As a result, many Navy veterans who served offshore and their survivors were granted disability or DIC benefits based on an Agent Orange-related disease. However, in FEB 02 the VA amended VA Manual M21-1 to limit the presumption of exposure to Agent Orange to only those veterans who actually set foot on the land mass of Vietnam. As a result of the policy change the VA has been denying claims filed by blue water vets for Agent Orange related diseases since FEB 02. In addition, the VA has taken action to sever awards of service connection in some of the cases that were granted prior to February 2002.

NVLSP has appealed to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims many of the BVA decisions denying benefits to blue water veterans. NVLSP has argued in these cases that the VA's change of position in 2002 violates the Agent Orange Act of 1991. On 10 JAN 06, a panel of the Court heard argument in one of NVLSP's appeals and a decision on the legality of the VA's set-foot-on-land requirement is expected some time this year. In any case in which you are representing yourself or another blue water Navy veteran/survivor on a claim based on an Agent Orange-related disease, you should keep the claim alive by filing a timely Notice of Disagreement (NOD) after the VA denial, and a timely substantive appeal after the Statement of the Case (SOC). If the BVA denies the claim, contact NVLSP attorney Rick Spataro so that a timely appeal can be filed with the Veterans Court. This is a prudent move because if NVLSP wins its appeal, the VA will be required to follow the Veteran Court's decision on the pending claim.

On the other hand, if the VA's denial of the claim becomes final, there is no guarantee that the VA will consider the prior final denial to be a clear and unmistakable error even if NVLSP were to win its appeal.

[Source: NVLSP Staff Attorney msg 16 Feb 06]
I don't know about anyone else, but I am refiling my claim tonight!
This is exactly what I have been trying to fight.
Now its underway. This is not the class action suit I was getting ready to start, but it will accomplish the same end, so we'll wait until this plays out and see what we want to do at that time.
"VNVets"
Vietnam 1966
Copyright © 2006: VNVets Blog. All Rights Reserved.